Hundreds of volunteers needed to get balloon festival off the ground
Posted March 14
Updated March 15
Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — When hot air balloons, live music and food and craft vendors crowd Fuquay-Varina's Fleming Loop Recreational Park on Memorial Day weekend, plenty of work will be required to make sure the second annual WRAL Freedom Balloonfest lifts off without a hitch.
Organizers launched a drive Monday to attract the hundreds of volunteers the event will need. Fidelity Bank, a festival sponsor, hosted a walk-in registration.
"It takes about 300 volunteers a day to help with a festival like this," said Mary Willis, Fidelity president and CEO. "We have rallied our employees in the bank for support, and we also want the community's support."
The small army of helpers will work from early morning to late evening to direct traffic, answer questions and keep the park clean for visitors.
The 2016 edition of the WRAL Freedom Balloonfest promises to be better – with easier traffic flow and parking shuttles and trams – and bigger. Organizers have added 19 hours of planned live music over the course of the three-day event and about 40 food vendors. There will also be rides and shopping.
Edna Morales, who owns a restaurant in downtown Fuquay-Varina, is expecting visitors to drift in from the park and learn what her little town is about.
"I'm very excited. The staff is excited. We plan to have a special menu just for that time," she said.
"It certainly puts Fuquay-Varina on the map with a major festival," said Mayor John Byrne. "It will be one of the best things that ever happened, as far as economic development is concerned, to our community."
Brian Hoyle, the lead festival organizer, said he expects 80,000 people will attend over the three days of the holiday weekend.
The move from eastern Wake County to Fuquay-Varina also puts the festival closer Fort Bragg, which is a bonus since it is designed to honor military families.
"The festival is really about remembering those who paid the ultimate price in service above self to our country," Hoyle said. "It’s not just about the man or woman who wears the uniform but the family who supports them."